Corlis Benefideo Award

Helen & Newton Harrison, 2013

Harrisons Receive Inaugural Corlis Benefideo Award; Show at Feldman Gallery

The North American Cartographic Information Society (NACIS) is pleased and proud to announce the winners of the first Corlis Benefideo Award for Imaginative Cartography, which was presented to the Harrisons—Newton Harrison and Helen Mayer Harrison—at the annual NACIS conference on October 9, 2013, in Greenville, South Carolina.

For more than four decades, the Harrisons have been making art about geography, placing activities and activism that often looks like urban and regional planning into the social space of visual arts. In doing so, they have commissioned and adapted countless maps. These revealed both the underlying facts on the ground (which is the subject of much of their art), and served as a field of play for them to propose new ways of living together, with ourselves and with the rest of the living earth. From the beginning, the future they ask us to face has been a world whose land is shrinking before rising waters, whose farms face retreat from changing growing seasons, and whose very nature is altering before our eyes. By visualizing this prospective change, and then proposing ways to adapt ourselves, they give us a way to accept the challenge of a changing world instead of running from it.

Their work is precisely the kind of thing that NACIS had in mind when we formulated the award: too many cartographers find their work and careers framed in terms of cold facts, and too many people whose imaginations could benefit from the rigorous tradition of cartography find themselves unable to reconcile themselves to our field. We want to use the award as a way to bridge those gaps, to make it easier for map-makers and prospective map-makers in a variety of disciplines to have the conversations we need to have to make better maps. It is about stretching cartography, without breaking it. We need to keep remaking cartography anew, and this award points to people whose work forces us see maps and the world they describe in a new and surprising ways. As one of our members, Steven Holloway, puts it, we need to help “make a future possible.”

The Corlis Benefideo Award is named after the master mapmaker who is the subject of Barry Lopez’s short story “The Mappist,” which is collected in Light Action in the Caribbean. The name is used with the permission of Mr Lopez, with our grateful thanks.

The Feldman Gallery in New York has announced an upcoming show of the Harrisons’ work, entitled Global Mapping, which will run from January 11th through February 8th, 2014.